26 July 2017 / Club News

A new era begins as Rhys Stephens captains the Pitmen

Penallta are proud to annnounce that Rhys Stephens will be club captain for the 2017/2018 season. Rhys will be taking over the role from his back-row butty Ross Morgan.


Rhys is a former captain of Penallta Youth and became the obvious choice following Ross's departure to Premiership side Pontypridd. Rhys has long been one of the leaders of the side and is one of the best players the club has ever produced. If anybody deserves the captaincy then Rhys does.


Penallta would like to wish the best of luck to Ross Morgan and Lloyd Rowlands as they join one of the great Welsh club sides in Ponty. Ross will have no trouble whatsoever stepping in the famous footsteps of the likes of Jim Scarlett, Steele Lewis and Nigel Bezani, putting it about in the House of Pain. The Premiership doesn't realise what it's in for!


Ross and Lloyd join Corey Tucker and Pat Lewis (Cardiff RFC) and Andrew Jenkins (TATA Steel) in moving up the Welsh Rugby leagues. All the supporters at Penallta love to see the fruits of the club's development structure in action, with our former players scaling the heights. We are sure all the Penallta boys will set the Premiership and Championship alight, doing the club proud.


With Matthew Tucker stepping down as Head Coach, Gregg Haines has taken on a full coaching role, joining Stevie Richards in leading the firsts. Penallta has a proud track record of promoting its own coaches from within, and 200-cap Gregg will certainly be an integral part of this new era. With many of the older heads moving away - having won a pile of trophies - Gregg, Rhys and a batch of high quality young players will now have the chance to make the 1st team their own and emulate the successes of recent seasons. They certainly know their way round a winning season.


Rhys was captain of the Youth side when Penallta first won the National Plate in 2012. Only Lee Rowlands, Kieran Mahoney and (injured) Jonny Wright now remain from that brilliant young squad. In between Penallta have continued to win trophy after trophy, evolving the younger players superbly; developing boys from youth rugby to Welsh champions within a handful of seasons. The challenge this season will be to create a competitive squad quickly, with lots of new young faces ready to be blended into the team and club-expectations at their usually high levels.


The immediate signs are good, as training has been absolutely first class. Geraint Kettley is back working with Dickie on the scientific side of the fitness, and Ray has been taking his extra fitness sessions in midweek. The boys look as fit and ready as they ever have, and numbers in training have been excellent.


The Troopers are looking in good shape, hitting the fitness hard. Tom Bailey has already lost three stone, taking the bleep test by the horns the way he takes his bulls. Tom has been doing extra work with Ray and Donna (thank you Donna), and is an example of what Penallta is all about, leaving no player behind. This is a big year for the Troopers, an opportunity to gauge how good they really are, having the chance to compete in the National Bowl competition. The Troopers have drawn Division 3 Ynysowen away in the first round and with Matthew Jackson taking over as captain, and Jonny Wright taking a coaching role as he recovers from his cruciate injury, there are no better people to embody the Trooper spirit than that pair.


Penallta Youth have started in ominous fashion too. Over 40 players have been in training and with Geraint Thomas and Bleddyn Corns joining Cribby and Rat on the coaching staff, and explosive prop and player of the year Ben Griffiths as the new captain, it looks a terrific set-up. Penallta Youth have once again taken the nuclear option of staying in the formidable Dragons District A division, a league they have been in every year since its inception. This current crop of youth players look as talented as any in Penallta's history, so the future looks very bright indeed.


But the last word is reserved for Rhys Stephens. The Deri Dalek has been an incredible servant to the club, already winning Player of the Year awards, and although he seems to have been around forever, he is still only 24 years old. Rhys has played in two Principality Stadium finals, a Silver Ball final and won the Division 1 East league title. There isn't much he hasn't achieved in the Blue and Gold.


Rhys's Dad Andrew 'Jack' Stephens was a wonderful captain back-rower and captain himself back in the day, leading a powerful Deri pack. Jack is Head Coach of a resurgent Deri side (now up into Division 2 East - doing brilliantly since Jack returned) and there was a worry that Rhys would be lured to play under his Dad. Thankfully, Mam Avril said there's no way her little soldier is coming back to his village club because she can't carry both of them home on a Saturday night. Avril said Jack is heavy enough on his own. Happily, when news that Rhys was staying in Ystrad hit the airwaves the Ehran's Charcoal Grill share price went through the roof...the whole town understandably delighted that Rhys has achieved what he was always destined to do.


Good luck to Rhys, good luck to Gregg, good luck to our former players as they move onto bigger things, and good luck to everybody at Penallta. Another enjoyable and successful season is on the cards. The club couldn't be in better hands.

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